Saturday, July 30, 2011

Car Traffic (Letter Of The day)

SIR – Your gibe that “public transport in Los Angeles has a great future, and always will” threw a spotlight on the common misunderstanding that adding more road capacity is the best way to ease traffic congestion on highways (“Carmageddon”, July 9th). Traffic will always expand over time to meet the available capacity. But the problem remains that those who use highways a lot and in peak periods pay the same as those who do not. In effect, we subsidise peak-period drivers.

A solution to this is to charge motorists for their decision to drive by time and location. A driver’s monthly bill could be based on the total amount of travel over that period. At the same time the taxes that are paid by others to subsidise the heavy use of the highway would be reduced. A system where the user pays is the only way forward to attaining a reasonable transport system in the future, which would include an optimal mix of car and public transit. Such a system could be implemented gradually to allow people to make adjustments to their choices of housing, vehicle, route and time of travel.

In a democratic society we have the freedom to use whichever mode of transport we deem necessary, be it car, bicycle or foot, but that should come with a responsibility that the user has to pay the true cost of his or her choice of transport, just as we do for our use of water and electricity.

Chan Wirasinghe
Professor of civil engineering
University of Calgary
Calgary, Canada  

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